This concerto contains a lively presentation of Brazilian rhythms and beautiful South American melodies. It has become a staple for percussion repertoire at the university level worldwide spanning over two decades.
I am going to give a description of this timeless composition as it is a wonderful concerto for your students to learn. The concerto is divided into four movements: Saudacao, Lamento, Danca, and Despedida. Each of these movements are contrasting in style and flavor. The movements all provide different technical and musical challenges for your students. Performing all four movements will greatly advance the technical proficiency of your students’ four mallet playing.
Movement I. Saudacao (Greeting)
This is a very lively movement that is in A, B A form. It contains contrasting rhythms, melodies, and dynamic expression. It is upbeat with a fast BPM. The biggest challenges for this movement are the shifting and changing time signatures. In the beginning, a musical phrase containing 6/8, 5/8, 6/8, and 7/8 repeats in a musical ostinato setting up the complexity of the movement and creating an exciting, unsettling, and aggressive opening for the concerto. A right-hand melody enters while the left hand of the marimba player continues the ostinato. The right hand plays a melody based on double stops emphasizing 4th and 5ths in an open chord. The B section alternates between 3/4 and 4/4 time and is based on whole tone scales. This section is also written in a linear style for marimba which allows the student to practice linear runs while holding four mallets. This section shows off technical virtuosity combined with embellishments. It is also very similar to a jazz marimba style introducing blues scales, contrasting the opening Brazilian rhythms. The movement closes with a reprise of the introduction.
Movement II. Lamento (Lament)
This movement is a very emotional and romantic sounding Brazilian ballad. It is in 6/4 meter and the majority of this movement is in A minor. In the introduction, the marimba player is required to play a one-handed roll with the left hand while the right hand plays very haunting and mysterious passages. The next section contains straight sextuplet runs while the left hand emphasizes the melody. It is to be played delicately with soft mallets and it is a lesson in finesse while playing relatively fast yet lyrically. The next theme in this movement is “Molto Expressivo,” and is more diatonic from a harmonic standpoint. There are beautiful rolls required from the student with contrasting motion. This segment is wonderful for teaching musicality and expression on the marimba. The movement closes with a reprise of the first two sections.
Movement III. Danca (Dance)
This movement expresses the beauty of life in a “dance” theme and mood. It contains absolutely beautiful melodic material and contrasts the sad emotions created in the previous movement. The technical challenge in this movement for your student is amazing regarding four mallet development. Independence between the mallets is required as each of the four mallets play a continuous 16th note line with the outside lateral stroke playing the melody. There is a contrasting B section in the key of C minor that is slightly slower and recurring themes are passed around the marimba in a playful way. In the next theme, the student is required to play continuous 16th note passages with the melody played in double stops with the right hand. The movement ends with a reprise of the beginning right after playing rising thirds outlining a diminished chord.
Movement IV. Despedida (Farewell)
The movement begins with a very aggressive technical display with a fast-linear run that ends with a ritardando. The next section is a continuous and frenetic rhythm with changing time signatures almost every measure. The left hand plays continuous double stop 8th notes, changing chords every measure with the time signature changes. The right hand plays a Brazilian melody outlining the time signature and chord changes of the left hand.
This is wonderful for developing independence between the left and right hand. There is a cadenza in the middle of the movement where the marimba player can showcase even more virtuosity. This section contains material reprising all four movements. The last part of this movement reprises the beginning of the movement and then breaks into linear 16th notes playing through the shifting time signatures.
The entire concerto is a wonderful journey through musical phrasing, emotion evoking moods, and dazzling technical display. I highly recommend this for your more advanced marimba players. Learning and performing this is truly an enjoyable experience and it is a testament to the potential and beautiful aspects that the marimba is capable of. The beautiful melodies and emotional content through solid composition and form are sure to make this an awesome experience for your students. It is so good that they will look forward to practicing this concerto every day. I know from experience! The concerto may be found at Steve Weiss Music and many other places online.
In 2016, The Huffington Post called Kevin Lucas “the most talented percussionist since Lionel Hampton, Ginger Baker, and Tito Puente.” Kevin performed with the Madison Scouts Drum and Bugle Corps from 1992-1994, and won the DCI Midwest Individuals in 1994 for keyboard percussion. He placed second in concert hall percussion at the Music Teachers National Association collegiate competition in 1997.